Funder and Dates: BBSRC, Defra Oct 2013 - Dec 2016
Collaborators/partners: SRUC, University of Helsinki, Newcastle University, INRA, Aarhus University, Wageningen UR Livestock Research, SLU, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, USDA-ARS. The project is part of the European Animal Health and Welfare ERA-net initiative.

Abstract/brief outline

Tail biting constitutes a major welfare and health issue in commercial pig rearing, with significant negative economic consequences. Contrary to the aim of the EU directive (2001/93/EC), tail docking is still widely practiced in most EU countries as a measure to reduce the incidence of tail biting and concomitant pathologies. Mutilations are a general welfare concern in all species, and any efforts towards reducing the need for tail docking are important for the future sustainability of the EU pig sector. Sound policy making needs science-based risk assessment, including assessment of the severity of problems and effectiveness of solutions. The general objectives of the FareWellDock-project included estimation of the relative harms associated with tail docking and tail biting, and evaluation of the efficacy of some main preventive measures against tail biting, which could reduce the need for tail docking. The ultimate aim was to stimulate the development towards a non-docking policy in the EU. For more information on the outcomes of the project or to receive related publications please contact Dale - see below.

Piglet being tail docked

Tail bitten pig

Project Outcomes

The project concluded on a set of practical recommendations, which have been published as part of four factsheets on the FareWellDock-webpage.     


In summary:
• Avoid tail docking whenever possible because it definitely causes pain, induces long-term changes in sensory-nerve function and may impair the pigs’ confidence in humans.
• Avoid tail biting, and hence the need for tail docking, by addressing risk factors on the farm.
• Treat tail-bitten pigs promptly and consider pain relief.
• To reduce injurious tail-biting outbreaks, use straw as it might be almost as effective as tail docking. For this purpose, the more straw the better.
• To ensure that sufficient straw is allocated check that there is left-over straw before the next day’s allocation.
• Keep your pigs healthy. This will be good both for productivity and also help avoid injurious tail-biting outbreaks.
• If pigs show signs of illness, be more alert to tail biting risk.
• Remove tail-bitten pigs promptly to avoid further damage and treat according to veterinary advice.
• Pay special attention to groups of pigs where you see:
                  - high or suddenly increased levels of general activity or exploration
                  - tail manipulation or chewing
                  - swinging or tucked tails
                  - low or decreasing numbers of visits to an automatic feeder or reduced feed intake


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